Elysium's Guide To Black Friday Retail!

As you settle yourself to Thanksgiving dinner at your large overstuffed table surrounded by large overstuffed family and try not to listen to your mother and her drunk belligerent brother have their annual argument over who knocked who off a bike and down a ravine in 1971, it's natural to look forward toward the end of Thanksgiving. Natural, that is, unless you work retail. If you are employed in the high pressure, action packed industry of corporate retail then the day after Thanksgiving is a black hole in the year, a day you dread as you would your own funeral, and as good excuse as any to move to a log cabin in Montana and spend your days eating beans and whittling. It is known as Black Friday, historically the busiest day in retail.

Corporate retail PR and other such whores will tell you the Black Friday moniker is given because it's the day that major retail outlets finally abandon the red ink in which they have spend much of the year floundering and soar into the black on the wings of your hard earned and easily given dollars. They are lying, as we all know corporate retail PR whores are wont to do. Black Friday is named such because it is a dark day for the souls of all who suckle on the rancid teet of an unchecked consumer driven society. Down with the bourgeoisie! You capitalist pig dogs!

Oops, I'm sorry. I don't know where that came from.

Anyway, I offer for those of you who, either by choice or profession, will be at the mall this Friday the following Black Friday Retail Companion Guide. And, for a limited time, if you buy it with the game, it comes at %10 off!

Part 1: Tips For Retailers!

1) Remember: Customers are Stupid – A lot of people are going to ask you a lot of questions today that anyone with half a brain and extensive knowledge and training in your particular line of specialty retail would know. When concerned parents ask if the cotton-poly blend of the footsy pajamas they want to buy for their two-year-old is fire retardant, look at them as if they must be the dumbest people in the world, because they probably are. Don't let the fact that you don't actually know the answer to their question (it's that dumb a question! Not even worth your time.) be an issue. Just assure them that it is perfectly safe with an assured dismissive wave of your hand and an exaggerated eye-roll so they'll stop bothering you with their idiot problems. Besides, if their kid burns to death in a fiery crib, you'll have long since quit this short term crappy job, so it's hardly your problem.

2) Of Course It's Not In Stock – Your company went through a lot of trouble to print up and publish completely artificial and fictional advertisements in major outlets promoting stock you don't have at prices you wouldn't sell it for even if you did have it. Unfortunately your customers are so unbelievably stupid (see point 1) as to think that the advertised items will be in stock at the advertised price. Go ahead and laugh, I can wait.

When pressed on the issue of stocking advertised promotions, point out that the seven vagrants who slept huddled under a damp piece of cardboard in front of the store got the only ones you had in stock, and if they wanted whatever the hell it was so damn bad, then where were they at five in the morning?

Then, for good measure, spit on their shoes.

3) Customer Have No Idea How Annoying They Are – Your time is precious. Who cares whether it's the day after Thanksgiving or the day after Arbor Day; you always take your break at 11:45 and today is going to be no exception. So when some desperate moron asks for your advice on which 32 inch television he should buy, tell him it doesn't matter which 32 inch he buys because they're all tiny diseased particles of beetle dung compared to a real man's TV. Tell him if he doesn't buy a flat-panel plasma TV the size of a highway billboard, the one you get 13% commission on, then it's almost certainly because he has comically small genitals. Then look at your watch, tell him you'll see what stock you have in back, and take a ten or fifteen minute smoke break. He'll almost certainly be gone before you get back. Problem solved.

4) Add Ons are Good Customer Service – I know what you're thinking: who give's a rat's sphincter about Customer Service? The perfectly obvious answer is "˜nobody that matters', but it makes for a great buzzword, and serves as a kind of metaphorical petroleum jelly for the screw job you do to your customers. Anyway, adding things on to a purchase that your customer neither needs nor wants, particularly invisible imaginary objects like service plans or guarantees that your return policy already covers, usually means some extra coin in your pocket. You only make eight dollars an hour, and god knows the price of the cheap blackberry wine that keeps the demons away at night has skyrocketed past two dollars and fifty cents a bottle, so you need every penny your unskilled labor ass can put together. After all, you're no corporate CEO of a major retailer earning millions of dollars for pleasuring yourself in a corner office to the Wall Street Journal and concealing shady finances. Remember kids, successful Americans with more money than you are evil.

For those of you with real motivation, add on items without asking the customer. It means a lot more money for you without the pesky annoyance of having to convince the customer. If they challenge the add-on, tell them only an idiot doesn't add that on, and are they an idiot?

5) Laugh At People Who Don't Have An Xbox 360 – Customers, again as a direct result of their immeasurable stupidity, will have the ridiculous presumption that transacting business goes as follows: person arrives at store, chooses items to buy, makes purchase, leaves happy. We brainy folk know that every facet of that naïve list is entirely unrealistic, but imagine the monumental ignorance involved in a customer walking into your establishment and supposing they can just buy an Xbox 360. What hubris! Treat these people as you would a social pariah. When they make their ridiculous inquiry ask them first if they have a reservation, this regardless of whether you have any in stock. When they inform you that they don't have one reserved, fools that they be, laugh at them. Loudly. Encourage other customers to laugh at them too. Maybe even pick up the phone and pretend to alert the media that some torpid customer thinks they can get an Xbox 360 without a reservation. Devise elaborate skits ahead of time with other staff members designed to make the customer feel very small, very ill informed, and ultimately hopeless. Then finally tell them they won't be able to buy an Xbox 360 until next September, but you do have a used Gamecube with a dirty footprint on the side that you can sell them.

And don't forget to ask them to reserve their PS3!

Part 2: Tips for Customers

1) Come to the Mall Angry! – It's a battlefield out there, and you are a one soccer mom army. It would be simple enough if you only had unpleasant sales associates and lunch from the food court to deal with, but your biggest problem is other customers. Look, Christmas Day itself, or Holidayday or Christmahaunakwanza or whatever those Jesus hating PC bastards want us to call it this time, is the time for giving and brotherhood and all that other happy fluffy nonsense, but any day before that is Go-Time! From crammed parking lots to the thirty person line behind one tired and painfully slow checkout person who, you're pretty sure, is crying, you've got to be looking out for #1 the whole time. That's all you, baby.

2) The Squeaky Wheel Gets 15% off Previously Marked Down Items – Be Rude! Many of you already exhibit a mastery of this concept on a daily basis. Being nice gets you smiles, but it also means nobody takes you seriously. A tired, part-time, minimum wage sales associate is already predisposed toward giving you practically anything if it will just get rid of you, but if you add a dose of rudeness into the equation, you can practically walk away with free stuff, and maybe the checkout kid's girlfriend as a trophy.

Being a good liar partners with this concept well. When you bring your item to the checkout counter, tell them that Todd over in Electronics said you could have this brand new portable DVD player for fifteen percent off because he liked your smile, and if they give you any trouble – this always works – threaten litigation! Lean over the counter in a very threatening alpha-dog manner; make erratic moves like you're both crazy and willing to punch things. And as a final point, jump up onto the counter and urinate on the cash register as a show of dominance. They won't be able to get rid of you quick enough.

3) Ask Long Winded Poorly Worded Questions at the Busiest Times - If I had to encapsulate all the ideas I'm trying to get across to you here it would be said as this: you are the most important person in the mall. That's right, you. Not that other guy reading this, he's just some Joe, and who gives a flying nun about guys named Joe? I sure don't! It's all about you, so if you have a question about the sweater you want to buy for your cousin who just got married in December, but her marriage isn't going that great because the guy she's with is a habitual gambler but they don't live near any casinos so he keeps finding reasons to take business trips to Vegas and now they're in debt, not because he lost at the craps table – actually he won $13,000 dollars – but because he used her credit cards, that he stole by the way, to buy high priced prostitutes and one of them stole her identity so now people keep calling and asking if she's available for bachelor parties and the credit card company wants to know what happened to the fifteen hundred dollars worth of lingerie and, you know, it's a hard time for her, but she's really into animal rights, and once even got arrested protesting a make-up company which is ironic because that prostitute spent like seven hundred dollars in lipstick, but anyway you want to know if the sheep that the sweater is made from comes from a free-range farm, then you go right ahead and ask. If the sales associate gets distracted at all, start over from the beginning.

4) Haggle – Retailers, despite any evidence to the contrary, like good sport. Yes, the item you're buying has already been marked down fifteen percent, and yes there are twenty-seven people standing in line behind you, and yes the person transacting your purchases doesn't even have the authority to take a bathroom break without issuing a written request, but you should definitely ask for an extra ten percent off this twelve dollar blouse because there's a loose thread in the armpit, and you consider that shopworn. When they say no, remember that they're just playing hardball. Demand to see the manager, and when he points out the line behind you and how the shirt is already on discount, ask him to call his District Manager at home immediately. If you have to go all the way up the ladder for your extra unnecessary two dollar discount, you do it. Don't let those retail bastards push you around!

5) For the Love of Generic Omnipotent Deity (G.O.D.) Stay HOME! – Seriously? Are you people insane? I'm not even going to a convenience store the day after Thanksgiving much less any major retailer. Having worked a Black Friday just last year, I can assure you that everyone out that day is clinically disturbed. I'd sooner pick a fight with a hungry Mike Tyson than go to the mall Friday, and honestly if you brave that retail endurance gauntlet, then you probably deserve whatever scars you walk away with.

But if you are foolish enough to challenge Black Friday we here at GWJ wish you luck, suggest you take plenty of ammunition, and hope these helpful tips prove useful. Use them only for good, never evil.

And if you see an extra Xbox 360, please buy me one.

- Elysium


His Beardness wrote:

Then, for good measure, spit on their shoes.

Better have a bottle of water on hand to reload.

Elysium wrote:

I'd sooner pick a fight with a hungry Mike Tyson than go to the mall Friday

It's the horny Mike Tyson I dread.

You of such eloquent words oh great Elysium! You describe that horrible day to a T, being as how I experienced many of these when I worked retail, it still gives me the heebiejeebies thinking of these days of horror...I try to do most of my shopping online, its safer that way....

Elysium wrote:

but if you add a dose of rudeness into the equation, you can practically walk away with free stuff, and maybe the checkout kid's girlfriend as a trophy.

I had not even allowed a trophy girlfriend to enter the mental picture until you mentioned it. I have to go shopping more.

What a terrifically fun article to read. Awesome post, Elysium!

Generic Omnipotent Deity (G.O.D.)

I am SO going to have to remember that one. Genius I say!

I did one Black Friday in my recent life... and that was at Best Buy to buy something I've long since forgotten and more than likely given away...

But one thing that will always stick in my mind was the sheer number of clueless people that couldnt be bothered to read ANYTHING and questioned EVERY single thing they purchased because the price didnt match what was printed in the flyer BECAUSE of course every damn thing says in small print under the price (PRICE AFTER $XXX mail in rebate)

It was maddening and made the line take 4 times as long.

That was a hoot! Great article Elysium! I have served some time in the retail trenches & you pretty much nailed it. Ah, good times.

I worked "Black Friday" at Wal-mart one year.

You haven't lived until you've seen a middle-aged man sprint through the store to get at the limited supply of animated, lighted deer.

Good stuff. Now I'm really looking forward to working at london drugs on friday.

it is a dark day for the souls of all who suckle on the rancid teet of an unchecked consumer driven society

Sorry, you spelled teat wrong. I'm not some weird spelling nazi...on the contrary, I'm usually a horrible speller. But that word struck me wrong.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the article, and will not be going out to shop on Friday, unless it's to get a cheap DS for my wife.

Anybody get the impression that Elysium did not enjoy his brief foray in the retail business?

While in college I worked at the service desk of K-Mart over one holiday season. It literally drove me to smoking. I quit (both the job and the cigs) in January.

And I know Elysium was kidding about being rude to retail staff to get what you want but I always tried a lot harder to help folks who were being nice and understanding than I tried to help asshats (I actually tried to make their lives more difficult).

"Come to the Mall Angry!"

Is there any other way to visit the mall?

georob wrote:

I actually tried to make their lives more difficult

See, now I want some juicy stories to go with that statement.

LightBender wrote:

"Come to the Mall Angry!"

Is there any other way to visit the mall?

I prefer surly and drunk.

Wow, what a vibrant and horrifically accurate assessment to Black Friday.

Yeah, you nailed it, bub. You've definitely got some personal healing to do it seems, but your ability to capture the essence of the thing is uncanny. I did a great deal of hard time behind a retail counter over various holidays and the irony of the "season of giving" being the time that most people seem the most angry and selfish and unforgiving and just flat out rude always made me laugh. Or was that cry? Quit my job(s)? Self medicate? Kick things? Something. Probably not "laugh" though now that I think about it.

My wife went to Super Walmart at 6 AM the day after Thanksgiving once. Once.

I went to 2 stores here before 8 AM.. here is my report:

#1. People are nuts. I went to Circuit City looking for a Digital Camera that was on sale and the store was packed. Now I am completely bonkers so that explains why I was there, but I did not know there were so many others out there that belong in the asylum! I have a newfound respect for the psychiatrists in my neighborhood.

#2. They will buy anything that is on sale. Anything. There was this shelf with this keyboard cleaner set that was for almost nothing and the shelf was almost empty. People were clamoring for this $199 laptop (after rebate and signing up for AOL of course) which I think they are insane to be looking for a deal like that with so many strings tied to it.

#3. I think now that car salesmen are higher up on the moral food chain than retail computer salesmen after looking at all the caveats and "what if's" tied to buying a retail computer. I was looking for a cheap desktop tower (just the tower, yeah right) and the fine print is longer than Dicken's novel "Tale of Two Cities". Guess I will have to be a Dell buyer.

The good news is I got a decent 5 megapixel camera with case and memory card for a good price. No rebate. YAY!

many people in the New York Metro-Hudson Valley Region have five words about Black Friday:

Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets (expletive of choice)


They actually have the employees park at a train station (back when I was there, it was across the street in the high school parking lot) and bus them 3 miles up the road to the mall. Here's an article describing the traffic 4 years ago: http://www.recordonline.com/archive/... : and since that article, another 30-50 stores have opened in surrounding malls.

and there was me, for 3 Black Fridays, working at the ONLY restaurant in the fekkin place.

I like ignoring the angry people for a couple minutes who push their way to the counter, I even look them in the eye occasionaly.

I hated that day so much, I hate all of it. I hate the people who ask if we have Xbox 360s, what they do, why they want one, the diffrence between core and premium, and finally how much they are. I just beg that people quit asking me so many questions, I am a cashier at Toys R Us and people can stand to figure out what the item they have in their hand does.

Many times I can answer their questions by reading off the damn box. I don't know if the people asking are illeterate and trying to hide it, or just stupid.

From my experience, both.

Awesome article, Elysium. I've really enjoyed all of your articles on lessons learned from your past and most recent forays into specialty retail, and this one rung very humorously true for both my girlfriend and I, on both sides of the equation, especially the retail side.

Having worked at GameStop for the last five years, and being a six-time Black Friday veteran, I can say that it's becoming increasingly difficult every year to come into work that day. This year was the most dreadful yet. My most hated (and tragically common) question from the average consumer this year? "Do you have any XBox 360's?" The nearly too-close-to-call runner up is "what's the difference between the core and premium models?" Damn Microsoft and their terrible handling of this launch. Everything from their horrid over-hyping and under-supplying of the marketplace to their damnable 2-SKU system has been an absolute headache from the retail end of the equation, moreso than any other comparable system launch.

This year may turn out to be the worst yet. Kind of like Office Space, where Ron Livingston is perpetually living the worst day of his life, each day slightly worse than the last. And the best part of all of that? Any career retailers can look forward to answering the 2-SKU question regarding XBox 360 for the next five years. Enjoy the season!

My wife's purse was stolen last wednesday, complete with all of her credit cards, checkbook, cash, and soul. In what can only be considered an act of self-punishment, she and her mother make it a point every year to subject their sanity and safety to the horrid mass of idiocy known as the Black Friday sales. However, this year, since all of her spending power was usurped, she wouldn't be able to attend, right? Hooray! Wrong. Instead, my presence was required so that *my* credit cards could be used. Funny how that works. At one point, we made a stop into an EBGames, and the first question out of my wife's mouth to the Mom's-Basement-Dweller behind the couch was, "Do you have any Xbox 360's?" My head sunk, my eyes closed, and I did my best to brace for the inevitable impact. I had visions of Bart asking the Comic Book Guy for A copy of Bonestorm. On que, he prattles "Oh, sure, how many do you want? No. No, we don't have any Xbox 360's." I considered myself lucky that we only endured that short burst of insult absorption, clearly he was too busy to bestow upon us the full act. I can promise you that we are now part of a post somewhere on the internets.

Great article, Elysium.

My favorite holiday line from a customer back when I worked at Toys 'R Us, "I'm gonna get you fired!"

Happy holidays to you, too!